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As Gatwick grapples with drones, Canadian military eyes ways to drone-proof airspace





The key to detecting tiny drones spying on military bases or intruding into an airport’s airspace could be to use an existing TV signal.

Canada’s Department of National Defence is exploring using regular television signals to create a radar system that would detect flying intruders the size of an insect, as well as using other drone detection technologies.

The military is worried about spying drones collecting real-time video of its operations as the machines become smaller, cheaper and more expendable. 

And the chaos caused by drones flying into airspace at Britain’s Gatwick Airport this week show the small devices can have big consequences.  

As drone technology has evolved, drone detection techniques need to keep pace. Some drones have even been fashioned to look like birds to help them better blend into the environment. Others are equipped with gripping claws allowing them to perch on a tree limb or ledge for better surveillance, according to a reference document written in 2016 by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), a DND agency.

“Small drones are increasingly being used for spying/reconnaissance applications. They are small in size and hard to detect,” said the document titled, Counter-measures against drone surveillance.

“They can pose real and significant threats to military operations,” it stated.

This is a drone made to look like a female falcon, but it’s not used for spying. It’s to drive real birds away from the Edmonton International Airport. (John Robertson/CBC) 

How radar detection system works

To counter that threat, DND has been researching how to better detect spying drones with DRDC examining several different technologies.

According to the document, one of the best solutions found was to create a passive radar detection system using TV signals.

The system works by monitoring the constant TV signals in the air. When these signals hit an object, they can be detected by the system. 

“Firstly, TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones,” said the DRDC document. 

TV signals transmitted by major TV channels are powerful enough for detecting drones, even very small ones.– Document from Defence Research and Development Canada, an agency of DND

“Since TV transmission towers have been a fixture in the urban landscape for a long time, people are used to and accepting their presence.

“Secondly, TV signal is free of charge: there is essentially no cost for tapping into the TV signal transmission.

“Thirdly, TV signals are transmitted continuously 24/7, making it an ideal source for radar surveillance application.” 

The researchers suggest the TV transmitter at Camp Fortune in Ottawa could be used to monitor high-value infrastructure in a 17-kilometre radius. It would even be able to pick up insect-sized drones operating within a five-kilometre radius around the Ottawa International Airport.  

Battery-operated drones with a range greater than 50 kilometres are already available on the commercial hobby market, according to Defence Research and Development Canada, a DND agency. (Sarawut Chamsaeng/Shutterstock)

Other ways of detecting drones

But the technology does have its flaws. Any radar system that can pick up small drones can pick up birds as well, both of which have similar radar signatures that could result in false alarms. 

However, the document suggests this problem may soon be solved by artificial intelligence algorithms that can tell the difference between a bird and a drone by analyzing the different ways they move. 

There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.– Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council

The military isn’t alone in looking to develop better ways of detecting drones. The National Research Council of Canada has been examining drone detection technology for the last three years. 

It has looked at a range of different ways to locate drones, including advanced radar that’s good at detecting small objects, acoustic technology that can recognize drone sounds and a radio frequency detection system that tracks down the radio signals exchanged between a drone and its operator.

Charles Vidal is a research engineer with the National Research Council. (Noémie Moukanda/Radio-Canada)

Engineers also explored using thermal imaging cameras to highlight a drone’s heat signature and advanced cameras that can spot drones from far away.

“There’s no perfect solution. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses,” said Charles Vidal, a research engineer with the National Research Council. 

Much demand from other sectors

Vidal said there’s a lot of demand for this kind of technology from many different sectors.

Industrial sites like oil refineries want to keep drones away from dangerous equipment. Even jails and prisons want to locate drones to keep them from dropping contraband into their institutions.  

But airports contacted by CBC News haven’t embraced these new technologies, even though the number of drones spotted too close to airports and aircraft in Canada more than tripled between 2014 and 2017 from 38 to 135. There have been 95 incidents reported to Transport Canada this year, as of Nov. 30. 

Toronto Pearson International Airport said in a statement earlier this month that it is not currently investigating the use of drone detection systems. The spokesperson went on to say that drones are “not much of an issue” around the airport at present. 

However, it will continue to monitor drone activity near the airport and respond accordingly. 

Vidal says companies that run industrial sites are interested in ways to detect drones to keep them away from dangerous areas. (FS11/Shutterstock)

The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is taking a similar approach. It’s monitoring the availability and usage of devices to detect drone activity near the airport, but hasn’t yet used that technology.

In 2016, a plane en route to Billy Bishop had a close call with a drone and had to take evasive action to avoid it. Two flight attendants ended up with minor injuries.

Under Canadian law, drones can’t be flown within 5.6 kilometres of airports or 1.9 kilometres of heliports. Endangering aircraft is a particularly serious offence that can carry fines of up to $25,000 or possible prison time. 

In Nova Scotia, a spokesperson for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport said it doesn’t make public what kind of detection technology it does or does not have. 

Still, Vidal said there are others willing to adopt the new drone detection technologies.

“Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation,” he said. “These systems are getting deployed more and more.”   

Different organizations are already performing pilot projects where they will deploy these solutions for either a short period of time for testing and evaluation.– Charles Vidal


The DRDC document recommends hands-on testing as well. 

Its authors wanted the DRDC to start an in-house project to develop prototype detection systems.

The DND has not said what kind of technology it has adopted or might adopt to detect drones. 

No one from the department would agree to an interview. 

In an emailed statement, the department said it will continue to examine the threats drones pose and will keep evaluating existing drone detection systems and countermeasures, including “potential physical, electromagnetic and other protection improvements.”  


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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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